The stuff that leaders are made of

It was obvious that Malala was born for greater things and destined to mark her footsteps in history.

Maheen A Rashdi July 24, 2013
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist with over 20 years of experience covering social and geopolitical issues. She is a former magazine editor of Dawn

It’s been over two weeks since Malala Yousufzai gave her impassioned speech at the UN and bowled half the world over with her dynamism. Her intrepid words delivered in a self-assured manner won her several standing ovations throughout its delivery.

But that was to be expected. A girl who started out at 12 years of age by taking up cudgels against one of the most ferocious criminals of the day — while living in their midst — is no ordinary girl. Dynamism is obviously part of her body make-up.

Subsequently, also for the past two weeks, a barrage of criticism has been directed at what has become the most talked of speech since US President Barack Obama’s Cairo address. The buzz on Malala’s address is continuing in the blogosphere, on Facebook, on Twitter and all virtual avenues, while the email circuit continues to circulate comments on it. But, that, too, was expected. What else can we hope for from inferiority-complex ridden politicians and closet Taliban who are fast becoming the majority in Pakistan?

Malala’s passionate delivery was somewhat overwhelming, though. Perhaps, because it did not fit with the image of a defenceless girl of delicate built, abused by the Taliban, whom it was easy to shower sympathy on. The girl standing at that global stage did not seem either defenseless or delicate. It was obvious that Malala was born for greater things and destined to mark her footsteps in history — something she has already done at 16.

A blogger on Huffington Post critiqued her as playing into the hands of the ‘white racists’ who are using her now as a tool to justify their foul actions in Afghanistan and against ‘Muslim barbarism’. Using many such comments that elucidated his opinion of how the West likes to use every opportunity to demonise the non-white Muslim man, he wrote, “...she is the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native.”

The rhetoric of abusing the Westerners for all our drawbacks has become too irritating. It will never allow us to get out of the rot that Pakistan now finds itself in and we might as well pack up as a nation and let ourselves be run over by the mightier forces.

If we ourselves are going to downplay our own champions, then how can we blame the Western forces who will obviously jump on the chance to shelter our heroes and use them as a tool?

Rimsha Masih was recently given asylum in Canada on the basis of religious persecution in Pakistan — how can we expect them to see us as anything but savages? And when we do find amongst ourselves a natural born leader who can shame seasoned politicians through her courage, some of us have the audacity to condemn her actions?

The media today has almost supernatural powers as it can turn public opinion any way it wants, when it wants. If we want to expose the hypocrisy of the Western forces, we should criticise the West — not Malala, who is our saving grace. She will become a Western propaganda only if we negate the good she has done.

To accuse her father — as some bloggers in chat rooms have done — of having taken compensation to put Malala on the world stage is a sickening thought. How many of us would have the courage to allow our kids to face half the travails which that young teenager has faced and still allow them to continue the mission? Seriously, there should be rules of play governing the blogosphere as well.

Our best hope out of this national decay is to celebrate the good and encourage and put our faith in the younger generation where many Malalas may be found silently striving to create a healthier state of being. And if we don’t want the white man to own our heroes, we should know how to cherish them ourselves.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.

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ezanius | 10 years ago | Reply

@OB: Well I did mention I respect Malala's courage and that she has indeed exposed a huge problem in our society. What I tried to mention was that majority of people in this society are unable to connect that problem with the prosperity in the long run. As there is not one barrier in understanding and connecting the girls' education with the development and sustainability, similarly it cannot be injected in people’s mindset with a single tool to make them understand. The other thing you raised revolved around comparing heroes. I think heroism starts with inspiring others and that inspiration must also reflect a problem or challenge. But we cannot judge who could be a better hero. However, the inspiration must reflect a problem that the masses could see and could be able to connect with their prosperity and the TIMING here is very important. The dilemma in our society as a nation is that we don’t have a national hero after independence that could inspire and reflect collective identity as a nation, though there are regional heroes. The process is more complex in the modern times where media has become a breeding ground of celebrities. I would rather call Malala a celebrity more than a hero of Pakistan.

OB | 10 years ago | Reply

@ezanius: All countries have problems and usually they are big enough for one single person to deal with. Heroes are people who show selflessness, sincerity and dedication irrespective of the priority of issues they confront. Some people may be better at one thing and others better at other things. They are still better than those of us who show neither an innitiative nor an action to take on any issue big or small.

If we go by your logic, we must even criticise Edhi, why does he not confront the gangs of Karachi but he and his organisation is always there to pick up the dead bodies, what kind of a lame service is this. It so happens, he will not make an able superman or spiderman much to our dismay. Malala decided to serve this country in what she thought she could do best. Being a scholar at heart, she championed education. And I disagree with you completely that education, especially that of women is a low priority issue. You should know, generations are raised women not men so who derseves education more?

The only way we can solve the problems in our country is by supporting and encouraging those who take an innitiative in taking up a cause, any cause and work towards making a difference in the lives of people.

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